In understanding the ecological factors of persistence for any species, the larger aim is often the conservation of that species. For any successful conservation effort, however, we must also take into account the human inhabitants of an area. In particular, lack of knowledge about bats and their habitat requirements has led to both their direct and indirect eradication. During our ecological work on the summer activity of bats, we also sought to increase public knowledge and behaviors that may protect bats. To assess the baseline knowledge and attitudes of people regarding bats, we have developed a 5 point Likert scale survey. This survey was an adaptation of two previously used and validated surveys regarding attitudes and knowledge of bats and attitudes towards the environment. We gave this survey to students in a non-majors biology course, and sent it to 500 homeowners that live in close proximity to protected areas. A pre and post survey was also given to participants of classes we held at the Toledo Zoo and the Metroparks of the Toledo Area. These classes were based on the results of our research and supplemented by general information about bats that focused on activities to engage the participants.
Based on pre and post surveys given during classes, we found that, although participants’ attitudes towards bats and the environment were favorable, and there were high levels of knowledge regarding bats, there was a significant increase in these scores after participation in the class. 73% of participants indicated a willingness to put bat houses up in their yard, and 60% indicated a willingness to take part in activities that helped bats and improved their habitat. In regards to local homeowners that did not actively seek out these classes, attitudes and knowledge were quite different. 46% of respondents had negative attitudes towards bats, 49% indicated they were neutral regarding bats, and only 5% had positive attitudes towards bats. This pattern held with undergraduate non-biology majors, 46% negative, 45% neutral, and 9% positive. In most cases, there was a strong and positive correlation between knowledge and attitudes. The more knowledge people had about bats, the more favorable were their attitudes towards bats. Therefore, if we can increase knowledge, we should be able to improve attitudes. This improvement in attitudes is the next step towards changing behavior that fosters conservation.